Dec. 22, 2018
Veterinary Care For Rio 2016 Equine Athletes
Dr Thomas Wolff, President of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Veterinary Commission, leads a 130-strong world-class team of veterinary experts, including leading surgeon Carlos Eduardo Veiga (left).
The world’s best equine athletes at the Olympic Equestrian Centre had access to a hi-tech veterinary facility. Located at the Deodoro stables, the 1,000 square meter horse clinic featured everything needed to keep over 200 horses from 43 countries fit and well throughout the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Manned by a 130 member team of veterinary surgeons, anesthetists, imaging specialists, and medical professionals from Brazil and around the world, the clinic included the latest pathology, endoscopy, radiography and ultrasonography technology, as well as a dispensary, emergency surgery facility with padded recovery boxes, and specialist treatment stables.
The clinic offered routine supportive veterinary care with specialists on-site to treat horses should any emergency first-aid be required. Nine specially equipped horse ambulances were on the venue if any horses need to be transported to the clinic. In addition to the clinic, a network of physiotherapists was on hand to keep the horses in top form, while the horses’ temperatures, food and water intake, and weight were monitored by their grooms and veterinary specialists.
While the Games were taking place in Brazil’s winter season, there can be weather fluctuations, so keeping horses cool was a major focus. Horses cope with heat differently from human athletes because of their size but, like humans, getting their core temperature down after exercise is key.
Every day, over 46,000 liters of water and 400kg of ice to chill the water were used across the Olympic Equestrian Centre for washing down horses after training and competition.
Tents housing banks of cooling fans, used for both the equine and human athletes, were available at the finish of the eventing cross country phase, and next to the training and warm-up arenas for jumping and dressage.
“The health and wellbeing of our horses is the top priority during these Games,” said Brazil’s Dr. Thomas Wolff, President of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Veterinary Commission. “Many of our horses on site have their own team veterinarians, and it’s great to see how impressed they are with our facilities.”
Wolff, who worked directly with Olympic Veterinary Services Manager, Brazil’s Juliana de Freitas, has been the Brazilian Equestrian Federation’s head veterinarian for the last 15 years. He was Brazilian team vet at the Seoul and Beijing Olympic Games, and runs his own practice in Sao Paolo, specializing in horses competing in the three Olympic disciplines - Jumping, Eventing and Dressage - and racing.
“Our horses always deserve the very best, and at these first Games in South America, they’re getting just that. We know everything about every horse on site every second of the day, thanks to our monitoring system, and with the world’s best veterinary care on offer for our horses.”
Farriers at Rio
The most recognizable brand of running shoes, and definitely the fastest running shoes in the Olympic movement, are not on the track and field athletes in Rio 2016. They’re the shoes on the only four-legged athletes at the Games - the horses!
Just like track and field athletes or footballers, when grip is crucial, studded shoes are the only answer. And for horses, there’s a huge variety of different lengths and shapes of studs for different ground conditions. According to the Rio 2016 Lead Farrier Jim Blurton, “stud selection is nearly as important as tyre selection for Formula 1”.
Former world champion Blurton (57), a third-generation farrier from Wales (GBR), heads up a five-man British team that also includes Jim’s right-hand man Ben Benson (36), himself a second-generation farrier, who will take over as lead farrier for next month’s Paralympics. Both of them worked at the London 2012 Games, along with forge general manager Emma Cornish (41). The British side of the team is completed by Ed Dailly (26) and Craig D’Arcy (48) and Dean Bland (45).
And overseeing them all is Luiz Tenorio (44), the man in charge of Farrier Services Coordination for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Tenorio, who designed and equipped the Rio 2016 forge, is a first-generation farrier born and bred in Rio de Janeiro. He’s responsible for making sure that wherever there’s a horse there’s a farrier ready to step in if a shoe needs to be replaced, even moments before they’re due onto the field of play.
“The major players come with their own farriers,” Blurton says. “All the Olympic horses come with a spare set of pre-fitted shoes so that if they lose one the team can produce a shoe that already fits. In London 2012 we had a horse that lost a shoe in the warm-up 10 minutes before it was due to jump. We had the shoe back on in seven minutes, that’s the equivalent of a 3.5 second pitstop!”
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